Vanilla caramels are candies that combine the two popular sweet dessert flavors that give them their name. The candies are typically made from softer chewy caramel rather that the kind that is usually poured as hard candy. These caramels are a common favorite among people who enjoy candy-making either as a hobby or as a business. Many of these caramels are cut into small cube shapes that measure approximately 1 inch (about 2.54 cm) square or less. While crafting good vanilla caramels takes some specific attention to temperature and a few other details, many agree that the practice and effort are worth the results.
A good source of vanilla flavor is often one of the first concerns for candy-makers attempting this treat. While many recipes for vanilla caramels list vanilla paste as a required ingredient, vanilla extract is a common alternative that usually works just as well. Some adventurous bakers can also opt for a fresh vanilla bean that has already been cracked open and had its seeds thoroughly cleaned and scraped. These ingredient choices for the necessary vanilla flavor are generally a matter of personal preference for each individual.
Other ingredients for many vanilla caramel recipe versions include light corn syrup, granulated sugar, butter, and heavy cream. The exact ingredient measurements can vary widely depending on the number of caramel candies the candy baker wants the batch to yield. Some recipes can yield only 20 to 30 pieces while others can result in several dozen.
Timing and temperature are two factors that can sometimes be tricky when making vanilla caramels. To help avoid caramel that may burn or become too hard, experienced bakers recommend investing in a quality candy thermometer to ensure the cooking caramel reaches the correct temperature. Before using one of these thermometers on an actual caramel batch, it is also a good idea to first test it in some boiling water; sometimes the temperature readings can fluctuate. The mixed corn syrup, sugar, cream, and vanilla that make up the caramel should usually be cooked over medium heat until reaching a temperature generally no greater than 245°F (about 118°C).
In addition to using their traditional recipes, some cooks like to add additional flavoring to their vanilla caramels. Chocolate-dipped caramels are a popular option, as are those with added salt, particularly flaky sea salt, which imparts a delicate crunch. The combination may sound unusual at first, but those who have sampled caramel candy with just the right amount of salt claim that it contributes a new dimension to the sweetness.